Forget the blancs and rosés - these reds from South America will keep you warm this winter.


I recently ran across a map of the Americas that was printed with South America at the top and North America at the bottom. What's wrong with this picture? To my prejudiced North American eyes, the whole thing seemed upside down, but to anyone living in Argentina or Chile, it must seem like a long-overdue correction. After all, is there any real reason why north should be "up" and south should be "down"?

If the first world explorers had been natives of Patagonia or New Guinea, we would most likely have a very different picture of our globe. And suppose you're a mantis-headed alien flying in from Alpha Centauri, probe in hand. From space, there's no "right side up" to planet Earth - even though, for reasons not clearly understood, most abductions seem to take place in the rural regions of North America.

Maybe the cartographers who conceived this way of looking at the Americas were onto something. If you look at it from a wine lover's perspective, you can say that South America is "in turnaround." Argentina is certainly abuzz these days, and Chile has started to produce some of the world's best ultra-premium wines.

Here are three of Chile's latest luxury reds. Alpha Centaurians, take note.

DOMUS AUREA 1996 CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($40)
Ignacio Recabarren, one of Chile's top oenologists and a consultant to many of the country's top producers, had dreamed for years of having his own wine. Clos Quebrada de Macul, owned by Ricardo and Jorge Peña, is one of the best vineyards in the Maipo Valley. These two forces seemed to be destined for each other. Recabarren and the Peñas agreed to produce a single-vineyard estate Cabernet Sauvignon called Domus Aurea, or "house of gold," the name of Nero's palace in ancient Rome.

The partnership got off to a rocky start. Various disasters conspired to prevent the planned release of the 1995 vintage. Things got smoothed over, however, with the arrival of international attorney David Williams. Domus Aurea debuted with the current 1996 vintage.

Impressive is Recabarren's dynamism and passion, as well as his wine. The 1996 Domus Aurea Cabernet is a terrific wine that is proudly Chilean in style.